This year’s Master playwright award goes to Sam Shepard, best known for his plays Buried Child, Curse of the Starving Class, True West, Fool for Love, and A Lie of the Mind.

The PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Awards for Drama recognize a master American dramatist and an American playwright in mid-career, both of whose literary achievements are vividly apparent in the rich and striking language of their work. The former receives a rare first edition of dramatic literature from Bauman’s Rare Books, the latter a $7,500 stipend. The awards were developed to reflect Laura Pels’ dedication to supporting excellence in American theater, as well as PEN’s commitment to recognizing and rewarding the literary accomplishments of playwrights.

2009 Judges

Richard Nelson, Theresa Rebeck, and Sarah Ruhl.

From the Judges’ Citation

“For the past 40 plus years, has there been a more influential American playwright than Sam Shepard?  He has changed the way we think about plays, playwrights, and our country. From a man strapped to an electric chair to another kicking a dead horse, Shepard has given us an America that wills itself forward when all around everything seems to be falling apart. Written in immediate and intoxicating poetry and stage images, his plays are one part Beckett and one part Bob Dylan. For Shepard, the theater has been as vibrant a forum as a rock concert. In the plays Buried Child, Curse of the Starving Class, A Lie of the Mind, The Tooth of Crime, True West, Fool for Love, and so many others, Shepard has written an epic tale of common people lost and adrift in a country that at times seems just too big. And he has written this epic with humor, joy, and profound compassion. Though also a brilliant actor, screenwriter, director, poet, and story writer, today we honor Sam Shepard, one of America’s greatest playwrights.”